16 torch-lighters to represent 'Israeli spirit' at Independence Day ceremony

Regev: You have all set a personal example of doing amazing things which can change society for the better

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April 29, 2019 03:41
2 minute read.
Culture Minister Miri Regev (center) poses for a photo on Sunday with most of this year's Independen

Culture Minister Miri Regev (center) poses for a photo on Sunday with most of this year's Independence Day torchlighters. (photo credit: MUKI SCHWARTZ)

Sixteen men and women will light 13 torches at the annual Independence Day ceremony in Jerusalem next week, under the theme of the “Israeli Spirit.” The diverse group of people represent a variety of fields, and many epitomize Israelis who turned their personal struggles into inspirational life stories.

At a news conference on Sunday morning at Mount Herzl, Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev congratulated the assembled group on their accomplishments and their selection for the prestigious honor.

“This is a praiseworthy team of men and women who will succeed in moving and exciting the entire public,” Regev said. “We are a small, young country, which is simply a miracle. A real miracle, that has succeeded in reaching achievements in so many fields – in military, cyber, culture, sports, agriculture and health.”

The people selected this year, she said, “have achieved incredible accomplishments... they’re people who set a personal example of doing amazing things – things which encompass the Israeli spirit which inspires people to work to change our society for the better.”

The Israeli spirit, Regev said, is captured in this group of people, which includes Paralympian Moran Samuel, mental health activist Dr. Hila Hadas, singer Yehuda Poliker, director of the Ziv Medical Center Dr. Salman Zarka and filmmaker Avi Nesher.

Regev appeared at the event hours before a Comptroller’s Report was released slamming her conduct in selecting the torch-lighters and distributing tickets to the ceremony.

The other torch-lighters selected to appear at the event next Wednesday evening are wounded IDF Col. Shai Siman-Tov; Sderot teenager and scout leader Gil Shlomo; soccer star and Ethiopian-Israeli activist Menashe Zalka; Hodaya Oliel, a recent medical school graduate with cerebral palsy; and Marie Nahmias, a Holocaust survivor who became a foster mother to dozens of handicapped children.

Three women – Iris Yifrach, Bat-Galim Shaer and Rachelle Fraenkel, the mothers of three teenaged boys killed by terrorists in 2014 – will light a torch together. And Morris Kahn and Kfir Damari, two of the central figures behind the recent SpaceIL attempt to land on the moon, will also light one as a team.

The torch for Diaspora Jewry will be lit by Jeffrey Finkelstein, president of the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, the city that was the site of a deadly antisemitic shooting last year.

Regev opened her remarks by sending condolences to the family of the woman killed in a synagogue shooting on Saturday near San Diego.

All of the torch-lighters, with the exception of Finkelstein and Kahn, attended the event Sunday morning.

“This torch is not a personal one, I represent tens of thousands of soldiers who spend their nights and days protecting the State of Israel,” said Siman-Tov, who returned to serve as a commander despite being wheelchair-bound since his injury during a tunnel collapse in 2014.

Yifrach – the mother of Eyal Yifrach, who was murdered alongside Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel in 2014 – said their tragedy showed her the true spirit of the Israeli people.

“From our personal tragedy, we were able to see the people of Israel, the spirit of Israel in this incredible people,” Yifrach said. “We are a people who know how to connect with one another, to nourish one another, to love each other and to help one another.”


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